What does it really mean to have a voice in your workplace? The extraordinary global crisis that we are all facing has put this into sharp focus. And at the forefront of this pandemic are essential workers — those front line employees in hospitals, grocery stores, transportation industries, security and firefighters, warehouses, construction sites and more. For those who are union members with a collective bargaining agreement, their voices are heard. The power of union representation allows them to demand safety improvements, have a say in their workplace, their schedules and so much more. In short, they have a voice that is heard, something that non-union workers lack.
The difference between union and nonunion jobs is stark.
Union workers are more likely to have access to paid sick days and health insurance on the job than nonunion workers. Union workers are also more likely to be able to stay home when they are sick because they are more likely to have access to paid sick leave. Only two-thirds of nonunion workers have health insurance from work compared with 94% of union workers. And, 86% of unionized workers can take paid sick days to care for themselves or family members, compared with 72% of nonunion workers. These are discrepancies that translate to real day-to-day hardships for millions of American families.
This pandemic has shown the truly unfair working conditions of essential workers and what they are dealing with on a daily basis. But when workers are able to come together and voice their demands, things look quite a bit different. Companies listen and change happens.
Here are a but few recent examples of what the UAW and other unions have been able to do to protect workers during the COVID-19 crisis:
- The UAW has negotiated and continues to negotiate in all sectors with all employers to keep members safe and establish necessary safety measures in the workplace.
- The UAW worked with General Motors, Ford Motor Company and FCA to cease operations until safety protocols could be established.
- The UAW worked with John Deere to cease operations in Moline, Illinois.
- Negotiating with Blue Cross/Blue Shield to keep represented workers
safe — UAW members are allowed to stay at home unless they volunteer to work at time and a half.
- UAW negotiated safety conditions for the opening of GM and Ford facilities to begin making ventilators and masks.
- Unions representing state workers in Michigan, including the UAW, have negotiated bonus pay for state employees who work with the public, called “COVID-19 Premium Pay”. Approximately 16,000 state employees are represented by the UAW including workers in prisons, state hospitals, veterans’ homes and juvenile justice facilities.
- The UAW negotiated with Honeywell in New York to get leave status for workers, as opposed to forcing them to use vacation time for lockdown.
- Unionized nurses, flight attendants and auto workers have all leveraged their collective voices in recent weeks to try to influence policy and corporate decision-making during the crisis.
All workers deserve a voice in the workplace, respect for their work and a seat at the table. Now more than ever, we at the UAW believe this is critical for our workforce, our communities and our country.
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